Ballina shire councillor Jeff Johnson has resigned from the NSW Greens party to have a crack as an independent in next month’s state election.
The announcement came as a surprise to Greens candidate Tamara Smith, but she admitted she had heard some ‘rumblings’.
‘As fas as I’m concerned it’s only weeks to the election and I’ve been campaigning for the past eight months,’ Ms Smith said.
‘This election is about more than personalities so we’ll just soldier on.’
Cr Johnson told Echonetdaily he had been encouraged to run as an independent by people from across the political spectrum.
‘Representing a political party divides a community, yet standing as an independent I have the potential to unite the community with a sole focus on what’s best moving forward for this region, what’s best for the community and region,’ he said.
Cr Johnson confirmed he had resigned from the Greens party to make his run.
‘I have resigned from the Greens. It was made clear that sanding as an independent was incompatible with remaining a member of the party,’ he said.
‘Obviously some people will be quite angry but I’m happy standing as an independent because I feel it’s the best way forward.
‘The nature of politics are divisive and when you’re representing a political party the majority of the community don’t support that party so all your ideas and vision get seen through the prism of ‘’we don’t support that philosophy’’.
‘Party politics is a partisan business and the problem with party politics is that people are blinkered in the way in which they view the ideas of their party political opponents, and they look at things through that prism and don’t give ideas the opportunity they deserve.
‘The ideas raised by independents are judged on their merits. I’m asking everyone to judge me on the merits of the ideas that I put forward.’
Cr Johnson said coal seam gas and the proposed route of the Pacific Highway upgrade between Broadwater and Ballina would be key issues.
‘No political party should take the seat of Ballina for granted, even if they have held it for 50 years,’ he said.
‘Standing as an Independent will increase my effectiveness in getting the best outcomes for Ballina and the wider region.
‘This election is about who you trust to represent the interests of our community.
‘As a long-term resident with a young family I will continue to work to protect our precious natural environment while supporting sustainable growth and prosperity for residents and businesses.
‘The Nationals’ ongoing support for coal-seam-gas development in the northern rivers is unforgivable. They deserve to be put last on election day.
‘I am absolutely committed to protecting the region from coal-seam gas and will work for the declaration of a gasfield-free northern rivers.’
Cr Johnson said while voters would make their own choices about preferences, he urged people to place the Nationals last on their ballots.
Others to have nominated for the seat of Ballina include Labor’s Paul Spooner, the Greens’ Tamara Smith, the Nationals’ Kris Beavis, and Christian Democrat Party member Vivien Scott.
The election will be held on March 28.